Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Thin White Line

Malaysia, of course, like many other countries, faces a shortage of doctors. Even more scarce are doctors of courage and conscience. In fact, we had been quite convinced that there were none in Malaysia, until a group of doctors at Tung Shin Hospital proved us wrong today. They are, as reported in Malaysiakini, Musa Nordin, Sheikh Johari Bux, Ng Kwee Boon, Ng Swee Choon, Ronald Macoy, David Quek, Mary Cardozo, Farouk Musa, Mazeni Alwi, Pixie Low and Steve Wong.

For a noble profession, too many succumb to the temptations of money, position and sometimes power, rather than to the more onerous duty of dedication to their fellow man. This could be probably because they start off on the wrong foot, studying medicine for all the wrong reasons. Like for money, position in society or because their parents want them to.

In some cases, as in the A.Kugan case, the pathologist appeared to be complicit with the authorities in engineering a cover-up. From the MMA, he received a mere reprimand. In the Anwar trial, doctors appeared to have no qualms about bearing false witness or suppressing documents which would exonerate Anwar. Liow Tiang Lai, the Health Minister, exposed for a liar, took refuge in semantics and blamed those who briefed him. He will not own up to his mistake,a self-serving one. And he fails in his duty as Health Minister to safeguard all hospitals.

Those members of the medical profession who continue to remain silent in the face of an increasingly despotic government may have forgotten the following line in the Hippocratic Oath;
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

Doctors do indeed have a special obligation to their fellows, as do lawyers. Lawyers in Malaysia, to their credit, have not shirked their responsibility, unlike their timid brethren in Singapore. But doctors, until today, had not lived up to their oath, in Malaysia. Until the outrage of tear gas and acid water and violent arrests in Tung Shin Hospital.

Still, it has been left to a small group of them to protest. The MMA remains, shamelessly, silent.

Doctors can, and must stand up, for what is right and condemn evil whomsoever the perpetrator.

It is both their moral and Hippocratic duty.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

KL Central's Tunnel Of Doom

A pedestrian would find unremarkable the underpass that he has to pass through on his way from Brickfields to KL Central for his daily commute. Nor would it be of particular interest to him that the underpass has been turned into a tunnel by construction works.

But it would be in this unobtrusive tunnel that a key incident, nay, an atrocity, would be perpetrated on an august group of Malaysian parlimentarians, NGO leaders and citizens making their way to join the Bersih rally in the Kuala Lumpur city centre on July 9th.

They included Anwar Ibrahim, Dr.Wan Azizah, Ustaz Hadi Awang, Lim Kit Siang, Ambiga Sreenivasa, A.Samad Said, Khalid Samad, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Tian Chua and N.Surendran among others. As they walked towards the exit they were confronted by the FRU. Tian Chua and Surendran walked ahead, presumably to negotiate with the FRU, both being veterans of many a confrontation with the authorities. But the FRU were already aiming their guns. Surendran, seeming to sense trouble, started moving back towards the main group, calling on Tian Chua to move back. But Tian Chua kept advancing, like a latter-day Lord Cardigan, not willing to believe perhaps, that the police would actually fire on such a distinguished group. In the next instant, the scene dissapeared in acrid, lung-burning tear gas smoke as the police, without warning, discharged their weapons. The looks on the leaders faces, as the scene dissolved, was one of stunned bewilderment. Those attempting to escape by retreating backwards were met by another FRU phalanx and more tear gas canisters. Incredibly, the police were aiming directly into the body of the crowd, instead of over them. And there was no way out!

In such a closed environment, the results could have been deadly. Tear gas in a closed environment can cause permanent pulmonary damage, asphyxiation, cynide poisoning, severe vomitting and death. It is used often on civilians in Malaysia when it is, in fact, banned as a weapon in war, being considered a chemical warfare weapon.

There was no provocation offered by the marchers to justify this potentially deadly use of tear gas. They were walking towards the Merdeka Stadium, and that was all. Dr. Wan Azizah, Lim Kit Siang and Ustaz Hadi were not likely to suddenly start pelting the FRU with stones. Yet the walkers were attacked. It was either a malicious plan by the BN government, or the police in KL Central were led by an incomprehensibly stupid commander. Either way, the BN is responsible.

When the smoke cleared enough for visibility to return, Anwar Ibrahim was bleeding from the head and the knee. He had fallen in the rush and would be rushed to Pantai Hospital for a CT scan. Khalid Samad was seriously hurt from being hit by a tear gas canister. Anwar's bodyguard, Fayedh, was standing with a 4 inch hole in his cheek in a blood-drenched shirt, still loyally protecting Anwar and refusing to attend to himself.  Surendran stood next to them, his shirtsleeves bloody, gasping for breath like everybody else.

Tian Chua had been arrested, as had Ambiga and several others, including Anwar's youngest daughter Nurul Iman, a carbon-copy of her mother, Dr.Wan Azizah. Nurul Izzah had been told she was arrested, but seeing herself unattended to, left to help a vomitting marcher; and was thus, by her own fiat, unarrested! Miraculously, despite the reckless use of tear gas in a closed environment by the police, nobody was dead. Across the city, though, in front of the KLCC, a protestor would die on July 9th of the effects of uncaring use of tear gas.

This incident in the KL Central may well mark the end of the BN regime for good. No right-thinking Malaysian can vote for a brutal and barbarous government which thinks nothing of gassing respected oppositionists and parliementarians.

Note : The above is based on composite eyewitness accounts.

An Unneccessary Death in Kuala Lumpur

The Acting KL CPO, Amar Singh, has rushed to declare the death of a protestor in the Bersih rally yesterday as due to a heart attack. We were, of course, much impressed by his efficiency in deducing cause of death. It is a pity that he has absolutely no basis for his pronouncement other than self-serving, biased opinion.

Lest we judge him too quickly, or too harshly, we did check whether he was a pathologist turned policeman. We find that he is no such thing.

The protester died after being hit with teargas. He died after being left unattended for an hour and a half, despite those who were with him asking the police for help to send him to the hospital. They were ignored and no help was rendered, according to eyewitness accounts. And so he was left to perish, unneccessarily.

A Malaysian is dead, and those responsible for his death, by acts of commission, omission or negligence, must be punished. Ultimate responsibility for his death lies squarely with Malaysia's less than competent Home Minister, Hishamuddin Hussein.

The protestor's name is Baharuddin Ahmad. He was married with two sons and a daughter.

He deserves justice, and his family deserves closure, which cannot come without justice being served on the guilty.